NASA grows ‘cabbage’ in International Space Station

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Tokyo Bekana Chinese cabbage leaves are shown prior to Friday’s harvest aboard the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

Many of us have a love for gardening. Sowing a seed and seeing it grow into a beautiful plant always gives pleasure to any gardener. It gives an extra dose of happiness when the gardener grows it in space.

Astronaut Peggy Whitson harvests Tokyo Bekana Chinese cabbage aboard the International Space Station on Feb. 17.
Credits: NASA TV

Peggy Whitson harvested the Chinese cabbage in the International Space Station on Feb 17, 2017. She is currently in Expedition 50/51, and was one of the members in the space mannequin challenge.

The Veggie Project, a mission to produce vegetables in space welcomed this plant aboard. The crew on board will have the chance to eat some of these leafy plant, while rest of it will be saved for scientific study back at Kennedy Space Center.

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The crop made to the space-station after the researchers analysed it under various criteria. Volunteers tasted the choices kept at the Johnson Space Center. The Tokyo Bekana turned out to be the most highly liked in all the taste category.

This project comes in the wake of the situation faced by the astronauts regarding the taste of the food. Their taste buds dull during the spaceflight as fluids in their body shifts equally rather than being pulled down. To overcome the tastelessness they frequently add hot sauce, honey or soy sauce.

Jeff Richards with Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies of the Engineering Services Contract is one of the researchers who worked on a ground test of Chinese cabbage early in the summer.
Credits: NASA

The researchers have a backup plan. If the fresh Chinese cabbage they grew doesn’t meet the expectations, packets of ranch dressing are already aboard to help them enjoy the food.

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The team has decided to set up a second Veggie system, giving more room for the space garden. Later this year, the Advanced Plant Habitat, NASA’s largest plant growth chamber will make it to space station. So, just in case we leave the planet, there will be no problem when it comes to food!